Monday, May 31, 2010

Penny's Bend Nature Preserve

Today Meg and I took a late mid afternoon walk at Penny's Bend Nature Preserve. For those of you that do nor know about Penny's Bend it is this large horseshoe bend in the Eno River and it has some unique plant associations. A very pleasant place to spend some time in Durham, NC.

A male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus on Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa
The link above takes you to my page about this butterfly.

A male Spicebush Swallowtail, Papilio troilus on Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa
The link above takes you to my page about this butterfly.

Northern Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix mokeson
We found this on a gravel road on Saturday a little over a mile from our house. No he was not happy to see me, nor was Meg as I took this photo.
Usually we see these venomous snakes on the roads during the summer at night, this guy was out mid day. I have never in 12 years found one here on the property, the neighbor across the street called me about one she found in her yard about a month ago. She caught it a drove it to a wilder place to live.
This is my new carpenter's helper, he's called Snoozy the Possum! This morning he was sleeping next to my carpenter shop. I had a little project I was working on and he was 6-8 foot away the entire time sleepy away while I cut 36 boards using the circular saw, table saw which I drug past him and set up to rip my boards and the electric sander.He did move about 6 inches twice to hide better, but he had to get in his beauty rest and was not concerned about me even when the focusing light hit him when I took this day light lit photo from a foot away.

Other wildlife we have been having here is White-tailed Deer they have ate our peas and my Swiss Chard the last two nights! Meg is beside herself about her peas. We picked a quart of peas today, maybe our last.

Also for over a week we have been getting 4 Mallard ducks on the pond 3 males and one female. They are welcome to eat all the vegetation in the pond they wish!
New to our yard list a Common Sanddragon. I have lost the list but believe the list is close to 50 species of dragonflies and damselflies. We also added Prince Baskettail last month as one was seen cruising the sky over our pond!

This is a Slender Bluet, Enallagma traviatum that we found at Penny's Bend. Took me a long time to get myself to believe it is a Slender Bluet, normally the last segment(10) should not have that blue. This is the first Durham County record in twenty years, it is tiny and hard to find or no one has reported it. Last year I found over 100 of these at the pond next door and a few at our pond too. On Friday I counted 24 at the local pond.

The photo below shows some details the experts might enjoy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Odes and stuff

Last week I went to Ohio to help my Mom close on her house and my brother was having surgery. My brother is home and doing fine and the money is in the bank from Mom's house which we had been attempting to sell for nearly two years!

The weather was rainy in Ohio most of the time, on my way back I took 2 detours because of bridges washed out. I did manage to poke around in Shawnee State Forest for about an hour or so. My first nature experience was finding about 6-8 Kentucky Warblers in a creek bottom, we are lucky to see one or two every once in a while here in NC!
This is a Northern Pearly-eye butterfly from Shawnee. I have seen lots of pearly-eyes before but never have I seen one open up flat like this one. Usually about 1/2 to 3/4 open is the best they do. This guy had seen days of rain guess it was serious about drying out a bit.

OK, here is something unusual a female Aurora Damsel, Chromagrion conditum with a male Turquoise Bluet, Enallagma divagans attempting to attach to the back of the head of the Aurora Damsel to mate with it. There were 2 maybe 3 male Turquoise Bluets doing this! Both of these damselflies are mountain species mainly in NC, so I rarely see either of them. Male damselflies and dragonflies usually have appendages that match up perfectly into the back of the head of the same species female. Once the male grabs her head she can reach around with her matching appendages and mate with the male, this is called a "wheel".

Here is a properly attached male Aurora Damsel to the head of the female Aurora Damsel. These two damselflies are not mating, they are considered to be in tandem.
The male Aurora Damsel with a close up of the appendages. He is a beauty isn't he? One of my favorite damselflies.

OK, OK, I get it, this dragon comes from the sand! Common Sanddragon, Progomphus obscurus freshly emerged from his exuvia in the sand. This sandragon was found in Caswell County, NC recently, it had rained a lot and the creek must have washed this guy around a bit. Below is a teneral Common Sanddragon that must have emerged the night before, it was not 4 foot from the one above.

Great Spangled Fritillary on Butterflyweed, Asclepia tuberosa.

Banded Pennant, Celithemis fasciata
Those red eyes are something aren't they?
Male Calico Pennant,Celithemis elisa
female Golden-winged Skimmer, Libellula auripennis
I found this in Durham County, NC and thought hey we never see them here in the Piedmont, in the Sandhills  they are common. So when I got home I checked the NC State Parks database for Durham County and the last record of this species was mine back on May 23, 2002.

This bad boy is on an Ox-eyed Daisy, a Swamp Darner, Epiaeschna heros one of the largest dragonflies we have. These dragonflies are around 3 1/2 inches long and can be seen in swarms of thousands. I have seen thousands a few times in Frances Marion National Forest in SC it can be unsettling to see so many flying all around you. Today I had two of them in my back yard the area is maybe 50' x 70'  and the two of them gleaned up every small bug in the air over a period of 10 or 15 minutes. The only bug I saw them not able to catch was a Banded Hairstreak butterfly! They showed me today they are very effective predators!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Answer to the oil spill! Get farmers involved!

I'm sick of this Gulf Oil spill, just sick that nothing they have done has not moved any faster or been very effective. Adding chemicals to break up the oil only seems to add to the problems and is very expensive to do. They seem to be just compounding the problems out there!

Now I've seen this video clip showing how hay and or straw can easily clean up oil from water. The hay/straw absorbs the oil and floats to shore it could simply be harvested at the shore and hauled away to dry and be used as fuel. Watch learn and write!

Now I'm writing a bunch of letters to Obama, his wife Michelle and congress.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pea Harvest and Grandmothers Rose

On Sunday morning I picked our first Sugar Snap Peas. We did eat a few earlier in the week off the vine. Here is our first harvest of peas, just a snack. That lovely bowl is one of Meg's creations! I also picked 2 quarts of sour cherries at Meg's house and we made two cherry cobblers!

On Monday it rained all day and night, we must have gotten 3-4 inches here finally. This rain was much needed. I believe we only had something like .667 inches in the past 50 days, unheard of shortage of rain fall for April in 120 years of record keeping. I bet yesterdays rain was more than we have gotten in all of 2010. The cracks in the dirt are gone and my new grass looks a bit perky.

Another thing that happened here on Sunday was a pillow case hung out on the clothes line, it was one of those open in the middle pillow cases. Anyway Meg hung it out in the morning. In the evening she brought it in, filled with enough debris to build a bird nest with. Darn Carolina Wrens are drinking way too much coffee around here!

A little family history in this rose featured below. This rose came to be called Grandmother's Rose as it came from my dad's grandmothers garden in Ohio. It dates back into the 1920s from her garden. Mom and Dad brought me a plant from a cutting 20 years ago or so and it has been growing in my garden here and the last place I lived Clayton, NC. It is the only rose in this garden.
Below is an Ice Plant Delosperma cooperi I planted 3-4 years ago. These give heavy blooms and are fairly carefree. Actually this plant is a broken off piece the original plant I stuck in the garden and it rooted very easily. Some butterflies do visit it, we like it as a bright and colorful edge plant.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sunday Fieldtrip At Eno River State Park

Sunday I met my friend Roger at the Eno River State Park at the Pleasant Green Access. For those of you that do not know about the Eno River State Park it has several accesses. We were hoping to see Midland Clubtails, one might have been seen but it evaded us. So after a while we decided to go over to the Cole Mill Access which has a lot of Ox-eyed Daisy in bloom.

The Cole Mill Access has always had the largest population of Arrowhead Spiketail, Cordulegaster obliqua I know of. These are our largest spiketail dragonfly reaching 3 1/2 inches! On Sunday we saw four males and one female, the females have a spike they use to deposit eggs with, see below.

Female with the spiketail.
Male Arrowhead Spiketail.

Here is why they call it Arrowhead!
These as you can tell are fun to photograph and 3 of the 5 posed for me fairly well.

OK on to the really big find of the day.
My second ever North Carolina Umber Shadowdragon, Neurocordulia obsoleta.
Last year in July Meg found one along the Eno in Durham County, this one found on Sunday was in Orange County. Umber Shadowdragons have been found in 53 counties in NC, but none have been recorded in 20 + years here until these two sightings Sunday and Last July. They hang out in the shade doing the day and forage just before dark, making them hard to find on the usual outing.

Umber Shadowdragon, Neurocordulia obsoleta

Another good find an Eastern Pine Elfin, Callophrys niphon on Ox-eyed Daisy. Not the freshest butterfly or my best photo, yet easily missed if you not paying attention. Last years photo was much better.

Above is a Banded Hairstreak, Satyrium calanus on a plant under a spittlebug. You can find these little hairstreaks for almost a month and they are just coming out.

Above my first Silvery Checkerspot, Chlosyne nycteis of the year. These host on wingstem and where I found this one, wingstem was everywhere!
We are having a bumper year with the Question Mark, Polygonia interrogationis they were everywhere swirling all about rarely landing for a decent look let alone a photo.
Found two of these Painted Skimmer, Libellula semifasciata. These can show up about anywhere in the spring, not seen at Paradise YET!
No this is not a posed photo! Finding a dragonfly perched on a flower just does not happen, at least until this Lancet Clubtail, Gomphus exilis decided to land on this Ox-eyed Daisy.
I figured I better toss in this male Southern Spreadwing, Lestes australis damselfly from our pond since I'd not featured any damselflies.
Here is a freshly emerged Splendid Clubtail, Gomphus lineatifrons. Usually dragonflies do not have the wings over the back like this unless they have just emerged.  I saw this female fly up from the river onto a limb over a big downed log. I climbed up and took this photo with one hand holding on for dear life and the other on the big camera the river was 8 foot below right under me. More on clubtails like the Splendid Clubtails from last year.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mothers Day!

Happy Mothers Day to all you ladies out there!

Here is a Delphinium gaurdian blue that I picked up for Meg, the entire bloom head is about a foot tall. Meg loves showy stuff and this fit the bill nicely. The tag from the Durham Garden Center said gaurdian, not sure it was spelled correctly, but that is what it said. Never have much luck growing Delphiniums, anyone with some good pointers please do chime in! Helga down the street that runs a nursery I told her about this plant and she too said she had poor luck with Delphiniums.

Here is a deep red iris that I have had for 12 years or so, it never fails me. This morning it looks almost done already.
My latest Tradescantia it is called Red Grape. The foliage is slightly gray so it does not look like most the others I have and it gets up to 24 inches tall. These are also call Spiderworts.
This Tradescantia I purchased at the Hillsborough Garden Club sale last year. The garden where the sale was have all kinds of tradescantias but this was the only one for sale, think it was 2 or 3 bucks.
Here is the oldest Tradescantia in my garden, it was purchased at the Raleigh Farmers Market 10 years ago or so. It was in the neglected garden for years and barely survived until Meg and I moved it int a better bed where it is thriving nicely now. These blooms are almost 40% larger than normal tradescantias. I would be willing to barter a little of it for other tradescantias like a yellow one or something different than what I have shown here? I do have a plain native type blue one as well here in the garden.
Here is my latest project I did for a customer in Durham. This is the brand new Trex Transcend decking with entirely hidden fasteners. Made from recycled plastics and it will last forever. But it is expensive being almost 3 times more expensive than treated pine. Notice the picture framing I did on this deck and the benches? While building it I watched  a barred owl who dropped in the visit me several times. There is a creek between the house and the deck so it is very wildlife friendly. I also built the 44 ft privacy fence in the background as well. The last day on this job I enjoyed watching and listening to Black-throated Blue warblers in the woods next to me.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Things that happened on the first of May

Busy weekend! Meg's school had the Strawberry Festival yesterday. We stayed at her booth all day except for a short visit to the Durham Farmers Market. Nearly 90 yesterday and hotter today.

Well the first of May brought us a lot of new things for the year. The first Sugar Snap Pea bloom, Wood Thrush and Great Crested Flycatcher calls, baby Preying Mantis and 9 Pond Lily blooms.

This iris I bought at least 10 years ago from the iris lady at the Raleigh Farmers Market, I used to know the name and would recognize it if someone knows it? We have three stalks covered in blooms right now.
The Siberian Iris below was another first of May and my first ever seedling to bloom here to my knowledge. Iris seedlings appear here and there in the garden, it takes years for them to mature enough to flower.

Here is our first banana tree, a Zebrine Banana got it at the Durham Garden Center for $7 just could not pass it up. I always wanted a Blood Banana and this looks a lot like a blood. That upper leaf opened since I planted it last weekend.
Her is a new planter box we hung on the deck. It has Calibrachoa Caberet Hot Pink, Calibrachoa Million Bells Ultra Purple and Petunias Black Velvet. The Black Velvet have some black with yellow blooms and some all black blooms, very cool if you ask me.

Here is the Foxtail Lily I planted last fall from Brent and Becky's. Supposed to be 6 ft tall we barely managed 30 inches. Looks like it'll be years before we get some spectacular shows from this one.
Here is one of the two snapdragons we planted last spring. Very impressive display for what I always considered an annual.
Clematis henryii below. It is likely 12 or 13 years old and right now has about 60+ blooms. I think it did better last year, it looks great just the same.

Here is a peony that was given to us last fall, wow!
Wood Sorrel form the edge of the yard, grows where it wants too. Not sure why some of it has this reddish tint to it and others are just green. Both the reddish and green grown together in the same places.